In 1997, the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill directing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop nonpoint source pollution prevention rules in Wisconsin, later known as NR 151. The DNR developed performance standards for agricultural as well as non-agricultural sources of nonpoint pollution. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) was directed by the legislature to develop best management practices for farmers to help them comply with the requirements of NR 151. These rules from DATCP became known as ATCP 50.
The original requirements, finalized in 2002, set four performance standards for agriculture. The first dealt with sheet rill and wind erosion, and required that cropped fields met a tolerable level of soil erosion, called “T.” The second standard required manure storage facilities to be maintained (or abandoned) by standards set by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The third requirement stated that field runoff be diverted from fields, manure storage, and barnyards located near surface waters. The final requirement mandated nutrient management plans prepared in accordance with NRCS regulations.
The DNR also included several prohibitions relating to agriculture, including no overflow or manure storage, no unconfined manure piles near surface water, no direct runoff from feedlots or stored manure into state waters, and no access by livestock to state waters when the presence of livestock could prevent the maintenance of adequate sod cover.
NR 151 is also intended to make Wisconsin compliant with regulations established by the federal Clean Water Act.
The legislation required DNR to provide 70% cost-sharing opportunities for farmers who needed to make changes to become compliant with the requirements, unless the farmer was building a new facility or was a livestock operation with more than 1,000 animal units needing a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit.
In 2010, several key additions and revisions were made to DNR performance standards. Key revisions included the addition of pastureland to the sheet rill and wind erosion standards starting in mid-2012 and the addition safety restrictions for manure storage. A new performance standard mandates tillage setbacks of at least five feet from surface water.
The 2010 edits also feature new phosphorous standards, based on a ‘phosphorous index’ score (or PI) that is believed to be an indicator of phosphorous delivery to the edge of fields. This standard will be phased in throughout the state over the next several years as part of farmers nutrient management planning. The standard caps the eight year average PI to 6, with a maximum score of 12 in any one year.
Prohibitions on “significant discharge” of process wastewater from milkhouses, feedlots and other similar sources were also included in 2010 revisions. The final new standard also includes a requirement that could require farmers in certain areas to reduce discharges to meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements through DNR targeted performance standards. These changes would be directed by conservation best management practices developed by DATCP in ATCP 50.
Current Issues & Status
WFBF has supported reasonable management regulations and supported NR 151 as updated. Changes made to NR 151 will necessitate changes in ATCP 50. WFBF is currently monitoring the rulemaking processes.
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